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A SHORT HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BACTERIOLOGY
University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
Digitized by the Internet Archive
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BACTERIOLOGY
University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
A history of bacteriology on the Illinois campus begins essentially
with the work of Professor Thomas J. Burrill. Professor Burrill was ap-
pointed by the Board of Trustees as Assistant Professor oi Natural History
and Botany on November 18, 1868. A few years later the appointment
was changed to Professor of Botany and Horticulture. During his aca-
demic career he held many administrative positions but throughout all
this period maintained his active interest in research and teaching. Dur-
ing the early part of his career his name was listed as the teacher in many
of the courses offered. However, he appeared to be intently interested in
}> the smaller forms of plant life. Undoubtedly, ii was this interest that
established him as a pioneer in the development of bacteriology in this
The first work in microbiology was offered in the Department oi
v> Botany by Professor Burrill. As early as 1871-72 a second-year course in
botan) included a study of those plants "causing injur) and disease, as
die Fungi." Five years later (1876-77) the study of "Microscopy and
Fungology" was introduced. This course was devoted mainly to the
0\ "minute fungi, including those of the different fermentations and putre-
factions. " Further description indicated that these fungi were "studied
as carefully and thoroughly as circumstances permitted, cultures being
r\ made for the purpose and specimens obtained from various sources."
Professor Burrill's research work is well documented in his publica-
tions. In tin- Transactions of the Illinois State 1 loi ticulture Society (1877
and 1878) he reported observations on diseased conditions in plants which
he suspected to be of bacterial origin. Two years later (1880) his work
on fire blight of pears and twig blight of apples was reported in the
Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In this report Professor Burrill indicated the cause to be a bacterium.
This discovery proved a relationship between bacteria and certain types
of plant disease.
In 1886 general biology was added to the courses listed in botany.
In this course, work on the "culture of Bacteria" was included.
The first complete course in bacteriology appeared in the first semes-
ter 1891. It was given by Professor Burrill and could rightfully be con-
sidered the beginning of bacteriology at the University of Illinois campus
and in the country. The catalogue description of the course is particularly
interesting in its classic durability, and reflects the remarkable insight
possessed by Professor Burrill. The last sentence is especially applicable
to study in this field today. "Bacteria and allied organisms are now
known to play exceedingly important roles in nature and in daily life
and well being of man. This course is an introduction to existing knowl-
edge upon the subject, and offers instruction in the modern methods of
experimentation and research. The laboratory is well equipped for a
limited number of students. Only those who can give extra time when
occasion demands should undertake the work." Soon after this course
was introduced some students in sanitary engineering were allowed to take
the work as a two-fifth course in the winter term. In 1893 bacteriology
for municipal and sanitary engineers was offered in addition to the gen-
eral course mentioned above. Work in identifying, classifying, and culti-
vating organisms and in water analysis was given over a period of seven
The first graduate course offered in bacteriology was introduced by
Professor Burrill in 1896. He described the work — "Investigation upon
morphological and physiologic variation due to treatment; systematic
studies upon the number, validity, and relationships of species; researches
upon special saprophytic or parasitic kinds of bacteria and upon methods
of favoring or combating their activities."
Around 1899-1900 courses in bacteriology appeared in departments
other than botany. Soil bacteriology and dairy bacteriology were intro-
duced by the College of Agriculture, thus dividing the courses between
the two colleges. Later, work in animal diseases was also offered.
In 1903 Professor Burrill added to the botany curriculum a new
course entitled "Lectures and Demonstrations upon Bacteria." It appears
that this course was intended as a contribution to general education since
a footnote in the register indicates that "this course cannot be counted
for the degree of A.B. in the College of Literature and Arts." The offer-
ings were further augmented in 1908 by a course described as "A detailed
study of selected species of bacteria or investigations upon assigned
Bacteriology as a subject separate from botany was first listed in
the University catalogue in the fall of 1909. However, no courses were
listed under this subject. Instead a notation to "See Botany" was given.
About this same time (1908-09) two new courses were added to
the graduate offerings in botany. Both courses were crosslisted under
animal husbandry and were taught by Dr. W. J. MacNeal. who had been
appointed specifically for the purpose of introducing work on pathogenic
bacteriology. The first course had as its description "Special methods,
intended to develop technical skill introductory to research upon patho-
genic bacteria." The second dealt with "Investigations upon micro-
organisms related to the animal body in health and disease."*
Professor Burrill retired after the school term in 1911-12. Professor
Otto Rahn then assumed responsibilities of teaching bacteriology. Pro-
fessor Rahn's teaching load was heavy by modern standards, and included
a general course, the course for sanitary engineers, a course described as
investigations on special groups, and one graduate course in bacteriology.
During Professor Rahn's second year he introduced a course listed as
"Applied Bacteriology," which included a study of "decay of organic
matter in nature, soil and sewage bacteriology, food bacteriology, water
bacteriology, pathogenic bacteriology; identification of organisms." Dur-
ing the summer of 1914 Professor Rahn returned to Germany. During
his visit World War I broke out and he was forced to remain in Germany
until after the war. The same events required a visiting German, Pro-
fessor Felix Lohnis, to remain at the University of Illinois, where at this
time he did much of his work on bacterial life cycles.
In 1914-15 the University catalogue listed for the first time the
courses offered in bacteriology under the heading "Bacteriology." Dr.
Joel A. SperrVj II. who had been an instructor under Professor Rahn,
w.is placed in charge of bacteriology. He was assigned two assistants,
since the number of courses had been increased. In addition to general
bacteriology and applied bacteriology, courses in pathological bacteriology
and epidemiology and a "Journal Meeting in Bacteriology" were offered
.it the undergraduate level, as well as a separate general bacteriology for
advanced students and graduate students not majoring in bacteriology.
Three graduate courses were offered, including graduate research.
By the time the register for 1918-19 was published, bacteriology was
listed in the catalogue with the notation "A division of the Department
of Botany/' Prior to this time no major was offered in bacteriology. Dr.
Sperry left the University during the summer of 1918, and was succeeded
by Dr. F. W. Tanner. The staff at this time consisted of one assistant in
addition to Professor Tanner. The courses offered were the same as those
taught by Professor Sperry.
In 1921 bacteriology was given the status of a department headed
by Dr. F. W. Tanner, who, with two assistants, carried both the teaching
and research responsibilities. The department began its long and increas-
ingly vigorous life on the third floor of Noyes Laboratory. The quarters
consisted of a teaching laboratory, research laboratory, storeroom, office
space, and a service room for washing and sterilizing glassware, preparing
media, and other necessities. A small departmental seminar-library room
was also available.
Dr. S. A. Koser was appointed as an assistant professor in 1923 and
was the first appointment to the staff above the rank of assistant. Much
of Professor Koser' s research on the nutritional requirements of bacteria
began during this period. He left the department in 1928. Professor
Koser was succeeded by a former graduate student in the department,
Dr. G. I. Wallace. The increasing interest and enrollment in bacteriology
required the appointment of four teaching assistants.
In addition to classwork and research Dr. Tanner and Dr. Wallace
performed diagnostic bacteriological work in connection with the State
Department of Public Health. Specimens were sent to the department for
examination from the twin cities and surrounding towns. Several factors,
including increased enrollment, new public health regulations, and larger
numbers of diagnostic requests, forced the bacteriology staff to discontinue
such service work. A branch of the State Department of Public Health
was subsequently established and was housed within the department.
W. A. Miller, a graduate student in the department, was given the re-
sponsibility for the operation of the branch laboratory. After Mr. Miller's
graduation the branch facilities were enlarged but remained in the depart-
ment until 1939, when new quarters were made available.
In the fall of 1934, Dr. F. M. Clark, a former graduate student in
the department, was appointed instructor of bacteriology and in the
following year Dr. O. F. Edwards was added to the staff. As the number
of students increased, members of the department began to devote more of
their time to special fields in bacteriology. Professor Tanner continued to
lecture in the beginning course while Dr. Clark and assistants were re-
sponsible for the laboratory sections. Professor Tanner also lectured in
food bacteriology, a subject in which he was intensely interested, and to
which he devoted the major portion of his research efforts. Dr. Clark
assisted in the laboratory. Professor Wallace was in charge of pathogenic
bacteriology and gave the course in epidemiology. He also taught the
advanced general course for advanced undergraduate and graduate stu-
dents in bacteriology. Three graduate courses, physiology of bacteria, a
current literature seminar, and graduate research, all under Professor
Tanner's supervision, made up the graduate program.
In the fall of 1938, Dr. Wickerham joined the staff. Professor Tanner
had delegated the responsibility for the elementary course to Dr. F. M.
Clark. The staff had grown to five full-time members and five assistants.
In the summer of 1940, Dr. Wickerham accepted a position with the
Northern Regional Research Laboratory in Peoria and was replaced by
Dr. John Garey. The department was becoming overcrowded since the
increased enrollment and increase in staff had not been accompanied by
proportional growth in space.
During the year 1941-42, Dr. Doris Cook was appointed instructor
in the department and two new courses were introduced into the cur-
riculum. Bacteriology for/ nurses was taught by Professor Wallace and
Dr. Garey, and a second course in pathogenic bacteriology given by Dr.
Wallace dealt with pathogenic bacteria and laboratory methods of the
army. After being given one year the latter course was discontinued.
However, in 1945 a course in immunology and serology was introduced
and given by Professor Wallace.
During World War II the department cooperated in the training of
men for special services in the Armed Forces. This group was sent to the
University as a pari of the Army Specialized Training Program and was
given refresher courses in several subjects. In the Department of Bac-
teriology they were given a seventh term consisting of twelve weeks of
general bacteriology. This was followed by an eighth term which was
more specialized and adapted to men who were t<> serve as officers in
the sanitary corps. After completing the work they were detached to the
Camp for Officers Training and commissioned in the sanitary corps.
'These courses were Started SOOn after the war began and continued
throughout its duration. Courses for regular students were given at the
same time, in a program designed to speed up completion of their work
toward a degree. Under such conditions it is not surprising that facilities
and stamina were taxed to the utmost.
Due to the wartime manpower deficiencies, the staff in 1943 con-
sisted of five full-time members and one assistant. Dr. Severens had been
added to the staff after Dr. Garey and Dr. Edwards had left the Uni-
versity. With the return of students after the war the staff again regained
its normal number with the addition of Dr. C. M. Wilson.
Since the field of bacterial nutrition had been developing very
rapidly, a new undergraduate course in bacterial nutrition and vitamin
assay was introduced in 1946 by Professor F. M. Clark.
During the 1940-50 decade the departmental course sequence was
scrutinized with a view toward improving student contact. Those stu-
dents who elected to take the beginning course in bacteriology during the
first semester of their sophomore year were not eligible to enter advanced
courses until they had attained junior standing. To remedy this situation
an undergraduate course in advanced general bacteriology was introduced
and taught by Professor C. M. Wilson.
In 1948 the State Department of Public Health initiated a Water
Works Operators Short Course at the University. This has been an an-
nual cooperative project involving the State Department of Public Health
and the University Departments of Bacteriology and Civil Engineering
(Division of Sanitary Engineering) and Division of University Extension.
The one-week course accommodates twenty to twenty-five water treat-
ment plant operators from various parts of Illinois. The course is de-
signed to acquaint these men with basic methodology and recent advances
in the treatment and analysis of public water supplies.
In the fall of 1948 Professor Tanner was forced to leave the Univer-
sity because of illness and in the following year Professor G. I. Wallace
was named Acting Head of the Department of Bacteriology. The depart-
mental staff at this time consisted of four full-time staff members and
Professor H. O. Halvorson was appointed head of the Bacteriology
Department in the fall of 1950. He brought into the department Pro-
fessor Sol Spiegelman and Professor A. F. Borg. The following year
Professor I. C. Gunsalus and Professor S. E. Luria were added to the staff.
With the addition of these members to the staff new courses were
introduced into both the undergraduate and graduate curricula. At
the undergraduate level courses in the "Principles of Experimental Bac-
teriology" and "Viruses" appear in the catalogue. From the birth of the
department in 1921, the graduate offerings had been confined to physiol-
ogy of bacteria, a current literature course, and research. With the
increased staff it was possible to greatly enlarge the offerings at the grad-
uate level. "Quantitative Analysis of Bacteriological Procedures*' was
shared by Professor Halvorson and Professor Spiegelman. Lectures and
laboratory in microbial genetics were given by Professor Spiegelman.
Similarly, lectures and laboratory were introduced by Professor Gunsalus
on the "Chemistry of Microbic Processes."' After he left the department,
responsibility for research and teaching in this area was assigned to Pro-
fessor R. D. DeMoss in 1956. Work in the field of virology, originally
introduced into the curriculum by Professor Luria, has been continued by
Dr. J. W. Drake.
Research in the various fields of bacteriology was greatly expanded
with the introduction of the new staff, resulting in an increased demand
for space. With the completion of the new East Chemistry Building in
1950 and the move of the Biochemistry Department to this building, the
Bacteriology Department was given additional space on the fourth floor
of Noyes Laboratory. This new space was used for a teaching laboratory,
offices, and research laboratories. The space on the third floor was
devoted to offices and research laboratories.
Professor Borg left the department in 1954 and his place was taken
by Dr. Ralph Wolfe. Dr. Wolfe taught the advanced bacteriology course
and eventually assumed the duties attendant to the teaching of the nutri-
tion and assay course. The latter had been revised and converted to a
course in the nutrition and cultivation of micro-organisms. Other changes
in department personnel involved the appointments of Dr. Elliot Juni
(1953) to teach the advanced bacteriology course and his successor.
Professor J. T. Wachsman (1957 .
Despite the enlargement in quarters, sufficient classroom space was
not available to accommodate all the courses listed in the department.
Alter a request by Professor Halvorson for more space, the department
was given laboratories on the second floor of the old Bevier Hall, now
known as the English Building. All beginning laboratory classes were
held in this space until new quarters in Burrill Hall were available.
Late in 1955 ground was broken at the corner of Illinois Street and
Mathews Avenue for the erection of one wing of a new biology building.
The cornerstone of the building was laid on March 31, 1958, and the
building sufficiently complete to permit the department to begin moving
during March, the second semester of 1958-59. The department now
occupies space on the hist, second, and third floors of this new building.
During the past year (1959) the courses in the department have
been reorganized, and the name has been changed from Department of
Bacteriology to the Department of Microbiology.
The present staff consists of nine full-time members and fourteen
assistants. The members of the department with their fields of specializa-
tion are listed below:
Professor and Head
Spore Physiology and Food
Clark, F. M.
DeMoss, R. D.
Drake, J. W.
Food and Industrial
Wallace, G. I.
Wolfe, R. S.